…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
Having grown up in the East, and spent some time living in the West, … I’ve found there is a difference in Christian attitude towards opposition, persecution and shifts in the society.
In the West, historically the Church has been a major institution in society. Through migration and globalisation, the society has become increasingly multi-cultural, multi-religious, and a shift to secularism. The Church feels it needs to exert its influence in society… though, sometimes, unsure of its role in a pluralistic society and respecting the ‘rights’ of others. Unfortunately, the credibility of the Church has been affected by denominational disunity and various moral failings (widely published in the media) … hence, public perception of Christianity. In some countries, the Church is seen as having a geo-political inclination.
In the East, the Church has not been a major institution in a multi-religious society, experiencing periods of opposition and persecution. In some countries, believers pay a price to follow Jesus … sometimes with their lives. In spite of this, there is exponential growth in Christianity in some of these countries.
David Wang, Asian Outreach, summarises the Eastern perspective, and focus well.
When Abraham (a Chinese Pastor) was in Canada in 2010, for instance, he was somewhat bewildered when a Caucasian lady asked him, “Which is beter – communism or capitalism?” As a guest in the church, Abraham thought it would be impolite of him not ot respond. The question, though, was not something that had crossed his mind before.
“I don’t know,” he began to answer slowly, “I’ve only ever lived under communism.
But it seems to me, whichever draws us closer to God would be better.”
Much of Christendom is in the habit of shaking its head and lamenting the fact that there is little or no freedom of religion in China.
It isn’t right that the faithful there are persecuted! It isn’t just!
Notwithstanding the rightness or wrongness, however, the reality is that Chinese Christians in the Mainland do not spend much time deliberating this issue. It’s just the way things are. Nor do they exert much energy complaining about it. It’s just the way things are. They get on with life.
A case in point: the 200 or so Christians who were barred from leaving China to attend a global Christian conference in South Africa, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, in 2010. Some of the Christians were placed under house arrest; others had their passports confiscated; and still others were turned back at the airport boarding gates and sent home. But in whatever way the believers fell victim to this prohibition, including a couple of leaders in this book, it was not cause for them to lament the lost opportunity to go to Cape Town or to march to Beijing to fight for their rights. Instead, many of them redirected their energies toward the doors that were open to them — namely, planning outreach events or missions trips to minority regions within PRC.
The heritage of the house church is such that individuals who make a commitment to Christ instinctively know that they now have the responsibility to to preach the gospel, regardless of how much or how little they know of the Bible, regardless of how long or how short a time they have been a believer. They know it’s not an easy path they’ve chosen to walk. Its’s a serious life decision. And the urban church leaders in this book can be counted in here too. As such, their relationship with Jesus naturally becomes fully integrated into their everday lives. In time, it becomes their identity, including the hard parts of Jesus’ life even His suffering.
How can people outside China pray for the church in China going forward?
“First, don’t pray for our problems to be solved quickly,” says Abraham, “or that we will be persecuted less.
Rather, pray that the Church will quickly learn the lessons God has for us that we will mature. We need to mature.
Second, pray that the pastors and leaders will be made pure in holiness and that our intimacy with God will grow. Everything we do flows out of what is inside our hearts, so this is crucial for any ministry or service to God. Finally, pray that the church and the hearts of the believers will be purified. To God be the glory!”
The urban (Chinese) church leaders in this book are slowly maturing. They no longer consider persecution a curse, nor do they continue to believe that harassment and hardship should be automatically interpreted as demonic activity. In an ever-increasing way, they realize this is exactly what the Early Church went through. Yet, the church has survived and even thrived in such difficult circumstances. The urban church is now more at peace about the whole issue of suffering. They understand that a certain amount of persecution is actually good for the church as a whole. It serves to make them stronger and more effective for the Lord.
Think about the toughest spiritual choice you have had to make in recent times. When was the last time you faced persecution because of your faith? When was the last time you walked into your church service and wondered if this would be the day the government shuts down your assembly?
Nobody wants to suffer. Yet the biblical pattern in Acts reveals that the gospel was only carried and planted in other parts of the earth after persecution broke out. The oppression and pain that believers endured ultimately led to the wider distribution of the goood news of Jesus Christ, and the further expansion of the Church.
This is what it means when Christians pray, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done. It’s submission to His Lordship over their lives. Unfortunately, the word “submission” is very counterculture to the individualistic, self-centered societies many of us live in. With the focus always on “me” — I can have it my way, I can make this happen, the outcome is in my hands — where is the hardship of Christ in our lives?
Another thing one notices when speaking with Ruth and Abraham — in fact with most Christians in China — is that no matter what kind of dificulty or persecution they are going through, or that has already occurred in their lives, they do not dwell on it. It is not the big thing or the focal point of their spiritual journey. Instead, Jesus is. Their habit is to view the hardship only in the light of how much it brings them closer to their Lord and the lessons He wants them to learn. When in conversation with others, they are generally not inclined to be the first one to mention how they have suffered. They tend to talk about these kinds of things only if they are specifically asked about them. The reason for this is because they know that there are many Christians in the Mainland who undergo similar challenges in their faith. They are not the only ones.
Source: David Wang, Christian China and he Light of the World, 2013, Regal, pg 79-81, 151, 154, 156, 160.
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
Apr 3, 2015
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License